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The initial round of layoffs at Novell and its subsidiary - the WordPerfect applications group - will affect 600 employees from the Utah County area, according to the senior vice-president of human resources at the netware giant.

Tim Harris, in a telephone interview Wednesday, confirmed information relayed to employees that morning that a total 1,750 will be laid off worldwide over the next six to seven months.Kelli Tejada, corporate communications spokeswoman, said that by the time the layoffs are over, at total of 1,050 Utah County jobs could be affected. In addition to the 600 jobs lost in the initial round of layoffs, another 450 Utah County employees could lose their jobs when Novell's manufacturing division is sold or turned into an independent firm between now and February.

Tejada said that many of the 450 employees affected by the outsourcing will probably not actually lose their jobs, but will work for a different company. Novell would then contract with those companies for their service.

The initial round of layoffs will include people employed in both facilities, said Harris, particularly in corporate-level positions such as human resources, information services, security, finance and communications.

Several other areas such as manufacturing will see reductions as Novell moves to contract out more of its services.

"These are areas that typically have overlaps when you merge two companies who compete and who have had a full complement of staff," said Harris.

The reduction has nothing to do with rumors that Novell is being prepped for sale to AT&T, said Harris. "I have no information about anything like that," he said.

"These actions were always planned and are similar to what usually happens when two competing companies combine. We've known we were going to do this. This just happens to be the right time.

"We are concerned about having the right numbers for the company," said Harris. "We really are trying to consolidate in the best way possible and reinforce our business strength at the sametime."

Layoffs locally will get under way next week, said Harris. Overseas the company has already begun the downsizing.

Harris said the reduction is to be expected from a merger such as Novell and WordPerfect's union and is not a sign that the company is in trouble despite the reports of slowing sales and drooping stock value.

Coupling the news of layoffs with disappointing third-quarter earnings figures is simply a coincidence and a matter of efficiency, said Harris. (See related story on D9).

"It saved us preparing two faxes," he said.

Novell will provide severance packages based on the individual employee's grade level and length of service (in the case of Word-Perfect employees, the length of service will be dated from their starting date with the WordPerfect and not from the date of merger).

"The minimum severance pay for most will be the equivalent of six to eight weeks of pay. For many, that'll be more," said Harris.

Novell will also provide support for the former employees who'll be seeking new jobs, helping them prepare resumes and negotiate job offers as well as provide job fairs and invitationals.

"It's always been our position to support our employees making the transition to other jobs or in some cases, into other careers," said Harris.

"We are very sensitive to the community and very sensitive to the fact that the two largest employers have become one. We're trying to do the best we can for the company and for the community."